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Section Gee! | Art Buchwald

Giving Thanks for a Meal Better Than French Feast

November 26, 1998|Art Buchwald

Scientists have analyzed the DNA found in a turkey buried in Plymouth, Mass. It is presumably the oldest fowl discovered in the New World and the only scientific record we have as to how the Pilgrims celebrated the most famous of our pagan holidays.

One of the most important holidays is Thanksgiving Day, known in France as Le Jour de Merci Donnant.

Le Jour de Merci Donnant was first started by a group of Pilgrims (Pelerins) who fled from l'Angleterre before the McCarran Act to found a colony in the new World (le Nouveau Monde) where they could shoot Indians (les Peaux-Rouges) and eat turkey (dinde) to their hearts' content.

Every year on Le Jour de Merci Donnant, parents tell their children an amusing story about the first celebration.

It concerns a brave capitaine named Miles Standish (known in France as Kilometres Deboutish) and a shy young lieutenant named Jean Alden. Both of them were in love with a flower of Plymouth called Priscilla Mullens (no translation). The vieux capitaine said to the jeune lieutenant:

"Go to the damsel Priscilla (Allez tres vite chez Priscilla), the loveliest maiden of Plymouth (la plus jolie demoiselle de Plymouth). Say that a blunt old captain, a man not of words but of action (un vieux Fanfan la Tulipe), offers his hand and his heart--the hand and heart of a soldier. Not in these words, you understand, but this, in short, is my meaning."

Although Jean was fit to be tied (convenable a etre emballe), friendship prevailed over love and he went to his duty. But instead of using elegant language, he blurted out his mission.

He staggered on, telling her what a wonderful husband Kilometres would make. Finally, Priscilla arched her eyebrows and said in a tremulous voice, "Why don't you speak for yourself, Jean?" (Chancun a son gout.)

And so, on the fourth Thursday in November, American families eat better than the French do.

And no matter how well fed American families are, they never forget to give thanks to Kilometres Deboutish, who made this great day possible.

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